Anyone who’s ever fallen in love can tell you how much fun it is. Even when the initial glimmer of romance begins to fade, being in love is still good for us. A group of scientists have found that being in love can help strengthen your mind by stabilizing your personality and significantly decreasing your tendencies toward negative thinking.
In this study, a team of psychologists from two German universities focused on neuroticism in people in romantic relationships. Neuroticism is one of the five characteristics considered to be part of the basic dimensions of human personality. Those with neurotic personalities have a tendency toward depression, often show low self-esteem, and overall, tend to be generally dissatisfied with their lives. “However we were able to show that they become more stable in a love relationship, and that their personality stabilizes,” Dr. Christine Finn, a psychologist in the study, said in a press release.
The psychologists observed 245 couples, ages 18 to 30, for nine months. Every three months the couples were interviewed, with the scientists analyzing both the participants' neuroticism as well as their relationship satisfaction. The participants were also asked evaluate fictitious everyday situations and how they might affect their relationship. The participants’ reactions to the fictitious events were the most crucial part of the study. This is because individuals with neurotic personalities often process situations differently, and are more likely to react strongly to something others would disregard. It was important to see if being in a relationship could change this.
Results showed that as the relationships progressed, tendencies toward neurotic thinking decreased. The researchers developed two theories to explain their results. The fact that partners often support each other can help decrease neuroticism. Also, it may be that love helps us deal with life's situations more confidently, as opposed to having a negative outlook on life. “The positive experiences and emotions gained by having a partner change the personality — not directly but indirectly — as at the same time the thought structures and the perception of presumably negative situations change,” Finn explained.
Although everyone reacts differently in a relationship the researchers also found that the effects seem to grow stronger the longer the relationship lasted and were the same for both men and women. This gives hope to those who suffer from depression, anxiety, and other neurotic personality traits. It proves that negative thinking is not permanent and can be unlearned. Regardless of the individuals, the outcome of entering a relationship seemed to be positive for the person’s mental state. “Generally, we can say: young adults entering a relationship can only win,” Dr. Franz J. Neyer, co-author of the study, concluded in the press release.
Source: Finn C, Mitte K, Neyer FJ. Recent Decreased in Specific Interpretation Biases Predict Decreased in Neuroticism. Evidence From a Longitudinal Study With Young Adult Couples. Journal of Personality. 2014